So many skis, so little time.
That was pretty much my mantra during the ski industry on-snow demo days, held this week at Loon Mountain, New Hampshire. For two days I got to try as many skis as I wanted. The problem: what to try, and what to leave out.
Just the same, I gave it my best shot. It was absolutely dizzying. To fit in as many as possible, I could only spend a couple runs per ski. So it’s almost unfair to call this a demo. Think of it as speed dating with skis. Still, first impressions can be revealing. Then again, just as in real life, sometimes not. You never know.
On the whole, most of the skis I tried were quite good. IMHO, it’s almost difficult these days to find a ski that’s really bad. I think it mostly comes down to a matter of taste and what works best for (insert condition & level of skier here). For me it’s either “man, this is nice” or “meh, this is fine, just nothing to get excited about.” Maybe I’m not a sophisticated enough reviewer; that could easily be the case. For me, the bottom line is this: if it makes me smile, it’s a good ski.
The trend for next year can be summed up in three words: “Rocker” and “early rise.” These are everywhere, both in new models and in models that have been around for years. Call it a marketing ploy, call it a performance improvement, it’s the Next Big Thing. Used to be you only saw these in powder skis. Not anymore. According to the reps I spoke with, a raised tip has a couple of advantages, even when you’re not in a foot of freshies. First, shock absorption. It’s supposed to make the ski better in bumps. When the ski hits a bump, the raised tip keeps you from getting jolted around. Instead, there’s more of an up and over motion. And second, it makes the ski a bit more forgiving and turnable, since it’s a bit less grabby on the snow. Does it make a difference? I think so. The last change I remember this pervasive was when companies went from straight skis to shaped. So if you haven’t tried it yet, trust me — you probably will.
First, a little about me. I’m 5’1”, 110 lbs, an advanced New England skier. Which means I spend a fair amount of time on hard pack.
And second, conditions. The first day, the snow changed from hard pack to soft, as the temps warmed into the low thirties. The second day we had a couple inches of fresh snow. So no, I didn’t have the foot of fluffy powder which would have been ideal to try the fatter skis. What can I say – you work with what you have.
So here goes.
Cinnamon Girl: You know the song in which Neal Young sings “I could be happy the rest of my life with my Cinnamon Girl?” This might’ve been what he had in mind. The Cinnamon Girl is Nordica’s spicy new front side carver, based on the men’s Fire Arrow. A traditional camber ski with a 74 waist, designed for medium and large turns. And yes, it’s that good. The CG is a responsive, grippy ski that’s easy to turn. Think of it as your front-side sports car. Vroom!
Nemesis: I almost hate to reveal this so close to the beginning, but this was my absolute fave of the day. I’d take these home in a minute, and one of these days, I just might. The Nemesis isn’t new; the only change they made from this year’s model is the topsheet. But why mess with perfection? These skis do it all. Even though they’re 98 underfoot, they’re easy to get on edge. A beefy ski that’s solid and smooth, yet playful. These skis will take you through anything. Love.
I’ve always loved Fisher skis. Fishers are marvelous for eastern conditions, plus they’re reasonably priced. What’s not to love?
I tried the Fisher Koa 84, which is based on the men’s Watea. Again, not a new ski, though they’ve gone ahead and added some rocker and changed the top sheet (IMHO, they should have stuck with last year’s). The Koa will go through anything and make you feel like a champ. It’s incredibly stable and powerful, yet loads of fun, too. Great on the ice, and crud. I’d love to give these a shot in the powder. I demoed these in a 159. Another ski I’d definitely take tome.
Black Pearl: I don’t know what Blizzard was thinking, but these skis win the prize for the most schizo graphics. The tip features an evil looking purple bull’s head, with blazing hot pink eyes (Say in a Russian accent: “Unh. You are strong like bull!”) But picture this: you can’t tell from the photo, but a lot of the ski is sparkles and stars – the sort of thing that’d appeal to a third grade girl. Its bizarre. Be that as it may: these are fun skis. The Black Pearl features Blizzard’s new Flipcore technology. If I understand correctly, it works like this: most skis come out of the mold with a traditional cambered core. If they’re supposed to be rockered, they’re literally forced into that position. Blizzard doesn’t do this. Instead, it flips the core upside down to match the desired camber of a rockered ski. The ski is then pressed in a non-forced, natural way, which allows the rocker to be produced without bending or artificially shaping the ski in a press. According to the rep, the end result is a ski that’s more stable and easier to ski. All this is beyond me. All I know is that the Pearl is indeed a lot of fun and very responsive. 88 underfoot.
Blizzard Crush: I took these out because I’d heard great things about them, and I wasn’t disappointed. These skis can handle anything I threw at them. The 98 waist makes them great for deep conditions, but don’t let that fool you. These are crud busters, ice eaters, Plus they’re easy to turn, too. Here, too, not crazy about the graphics,. Skied in a 163.
BTW, didn’t try these, but the Viva Magnum’s, a great line that’s been out for a few years, all have rocker. I’d have loved to give these a try, but didn’t have the time.
Amphibio Insomnia: I don’t know who thought this up – based on the name, maybe someone with sleep issues — but this is one crazy ski. The inside edges are cambered, the outside edges are early rise. According to Elan, this gives you the edge grip and stability of a cambered ski but the versatility and ease of turning of an early rise. Yeah, yeah. I thought. What a gimmick. But does it work? Oddly enough, yes! The result is a great carver that’s loads of fun. I’d consider this a terrific front sider. They’re 74 underfoot. I tried them in a 152. Just be aware: these skis have a definite right and left ski. It says it right on the graphics so you don’t get mixed up. A good idea, I thought.
Zeal: This used to be the Free. They’ve changed the name and the top sheet and given it some rocker, but otherwise, it’s exactly the same. The Zeal isn’t as burly as some of the others I tried, so I think it’s better suited for in bounds skiing. Still, despite it’s width, this is a playful ski that’s nice and responsive. Fun. I think this was around 88 or 89 underfoot.
Kenja: These skis absolutely rock. According to the rep, the Kenja is a narrower the Aura (88 underfoot), with a thin profile so it’s “nice and flexy.” The Kenja is fully cambered so it carves a nice turn, yet versatile enough all conditions. I skied it in a 162(?). Steady, stable, with that great Volkl edge. And SOOOO much fun. I heart these skis.
Aura: Yes, they’ve changed the Aura a bit. First, the graphics: the busty geisha girl is gone (good riddance, I say). Instead, there’s a big green hummingbird. It’s —- okay. I think they could do better, but that’s just me. As for its construction, they’ve given it an early rise in the tip, and made it a bit wider (I think it’s 96 now). All in all, a great ski made even better. Dust off your credit cards, ladies. This one’s for you.
Yes, Volkl’s still have the Bio-Logic. No changes to the Tierra (as the rep said, “why mess with perfection?” I think I agree).
Elysian: This is a twin tip that’s 98 underfoot. It’s pretty burly, but it handles like a play thing. Turns like crazy, lively, and SOOOO much fun. You just float over the snow. I actually skied this in a 168 with no problem. Something I’d be happy taking home.
Affinity series: A step up from the popular Cloud series (which they incidentally still have). The Affinity Pure, with a 78 waist, is a more aggressive, a bit more turn-y. There’s also Affinity Storm, which is 84 underfoot. I thought the Pure was a great front side ski. Easy to get on edge, playful, responsive, a great carver. Skied the 160.
I’m just not feeling the love here. I tried the Attraxion 8, and the new Temptation, and just didn’t feel the kind of energy I felt with the other skis I demoed. Of all the skis I tried, these were my least favorite. That doesn’t mean they should be yours.
Another cool thing from the demo day: Helmets with an integrated goggle that slides up and down. What a great idea! The goggle snaps out, so you can replace it with varying tints. I slid one on and it was waay too big, but the range of vision was phenomenal. Definitely something to watch for over the next few years.
So there you go. There are many other skis I would’ve liked to try. Never got to the K2s, the Lines, the Dynastars, Heads, or Salomons (I wanted to try the BBR, but the smallest length was a 177. No thanks). I also would’ve loved to have tried the Icelantics, but they weren’t there, so no luck.
I think I need another Demo Day.